The movie has been widely hailed for its mesmerizing black and white cinematography and two-journey mythic narrative structure, both of which prove to be apt vehicles for its central theme: conflict between worlds and spiritualities and how to know worlds and how to use this knowledge. It depicts colonialism-propelled changes in and destruction of biodiversity along the Amazon river, which were accompanied by profound human and cultural losses—the decimation of entire communities and knowledges.
What I appreciated even before I went to watch Embrace of the Serpent was how it was filmed in ways that were consonant with sacred indigenous worldviews the movie juxtaposes against the destructive impulses of western logic. Director Ciro Guerra talks about inviting the indigenous communities to participate, and asking permission from the jungle to do the film. They did not just show the living spirit of the jungle as a presence in the movie, they honored that spirit in its very making!
...And the shoot, apparently, was unprecedented in its being protected from the kind of mishaps that usually affect other crews filming in the Amazon. Such are the ways of the spirits.
"Now that we have no language
Now that we have no culture
How do we call upon you
With which ritual technology do we remember you"
(Here is my full translation of this amazing poem.)
This cry is a cry in each of our hearts. Our hearts in modernity are crying out for connection and remembering: that we may remember who are; remember our souls; re-member all parts of our selves that have been lost or suppressed by the traumas of isolationism and separationism, rationalist and materialist thinking, imperialism, colonialism, oppression, neoliberal capitalism. May we remember our connection to the wholeness of life and to the web of interexistence and the power and resourcefulness this belonging brings to us—and rise!